Cocktail Chatter

Grizzly Deaths, Settling for Romney, and Ditching the Penny

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

The Wapiti grizzly sow with her cubs in June, 2011
A Wapiti sow with her cubs in June, 2011. This sow was the subject of Jessica Grose’s “Death in Yellowstone” article.

James Yule

A Death in Yellowstone: On the trail of a killer grizzly bear,” by Jessica Grose. When two people died in one summer from grizzly bear attacks at Yellowstone, Grose traveled to Montana and Wyoming to investigate the incidents. In her piece, she looks at the park’s decision to euthanize the mama grizzly thought to be responsible for the killings and explores the ethics of imposing a human-style justice system upon bears.

The New Selma? The death of Trayvon Martin has given Sanford, Fla. a bad name,” by David Weigel. After Trayvon Martin’s death, Weigel finds that some residents in his town want to escape from Sanford’s new notoriety. In a related piece, Weigel talks to black residents who are trying to make sense of Martin’s killing.

One Race Is Over. Another Begins: Romney may have beaten Santorum on Tuesday night, but he’s already running against Obama,” by John Dickerson. As Mitt Romney appears to be the inevitable Republican candidate for president, Dickerson assesses the challenges the candidate faces: Republican lethargy, disinterest from swing voters, and a “suitcase-on-the-front-lawn bad” reputation among women.

 “No Pennies for Your Thoughts: The United States should follow Canada’s lead and ditch one-cent coins,” by Matthew Yglesias. Poor little pennies. The cost to produce the copper-plated coins now outweighs their value, and Yglesias suggests it’s time to eliminate the unprofitable denomination just as Canada is doing this year.

Emancipation of the Minors: Hundreds of pro baseball players make just $1,100 per month. Where is their César Chávez?” by Lily Rothman. Being a minor league baseball player is “the sports world equivalent of an unpaid internship,” Rothman writes. But with no current union and eager, young players not wanting to ruin their chances of making it to the pros, a unionized minor league with a living wage for its ballplayers doesn’t seem likely.

Expensive China: A $31 million scroll, an $86 million vase, and other items from the Chinese antiques boom,” by Franz Lidz. Chinese works are selling at hugely inflated prices to newly rich buyers from mainland. Why? Lidz says, “In a cultural phenomenon with fascinating economic and sociological underpinnings, the mainland’s nouveau riche are paying emperor’s ransoms to reclaim their country’s treasures.”

You Autocomplete Me: Could Web-search algorithms make spelling a lost art?” by Will Oremus. Machines long ago mastered arithmetic calculations and now they’re taking on spelling. Oremus talks about Google’s Autocomplete and the effect it might have on our spelling abilities.

Is Science Really Moving Faster Than Ever?” by Konstantin Kakaes and Daniel Sarewitz. In a series of dialogues, Future Tense collaborators debate whether science’s rapid pace is producing results or just satisfying scientists’ curiosities.

What T.S. Eliot Teaches Us About the GOP Primary: Romney’s Etch A Sketch. Santorum’s pink bowling ball. The poet and critic understood how a concrete thing could sum up a person—or a candidate,” by Katy Waldman. In today’s political culture where you know everything and nothing about a politician, Waldman argues that gaffes like Santorum’s pink bowling ball chastisement “have tapped into and solidified the abstractions, the popular anxieties, swirling around these two candidates.”

A Secret Plot in Syria: An illustrated account of the 1949 coup—possibly CIA-assisted—that plunged the country into decades of political turmoil,” by Andy Warner. Brush up on your Syrian history with Warner’s illustrated, straightforward account of the series of coups and political jostlings that brought Syria to its current armed conflict against a dictator. And the CIA may have started it all.